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Coaching Across the Generations

5 min read

William Bergquist and William Carrier

One of the central issues that emerged during our wide-ranging discussions in Santa Fe about the future of coaching concerned the challenge of coaching across the generations. There was actually two parts to this challenge. The first part concerned the challenge of coaching someone from a different generation than our own. Can a young person coach an older person?  How much credibility does an older coach have when coaching someone much younger than themselves? Are there conceptual or emotional barriers between generations that make it hard to coach across generations? The second part of the challenge that was addressed in Santa Fe concerns the future of coaching within a generation – but outside the contemporary parameters of coaching during mid-life. Can professional coaching be successfully used with high school students? Is there such a thing as Kindergarten coaching What about coaching to those in their 70s, 80s and even 90s?

We have assembled a set of essays, interviews and thought-provoking questions that address some of these challenges and lay the groundwork for fertile discussions in many other settings regarding the future of coaching across the generations.

What’s in Store for You: Contents of This Issue and Links to the Articles

We begin by offering a roadmap for our exploration. It was written by our colleague, Gary Quehl, as a roadmap for a study that one of us [WB] did with Gary about the role of emerging and senior leaders in community engagement activities (called the “Sage Project’). Gary offers a summary of the generational differences (“X-Gen” etc.) to be found in contemporary Western societies. While we all (including Gary) realize that these are very broad generalities that can easily be questioned, we also recognize that these intergenerational comparisons yield insights regarding not just differing assumptions about leadership, citizenship, responsibilities, change, etc. but also more specifically about what issues those who coach across generations and coach within nontraditional age groups are likely to confront:

The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups

We offer two other roadmaps in our second and third essay. One is a brief overview prepared by one of us [WB] regarding the two foundational models of human development first presented by Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson:

Searching for Vitality: Coaching through the Lenses of Adult Development Theory and Research

The second essay offers even more detailed and related directly to the coaching profession. Written by Pam McLean, President of the Hudson Institute in Santa Barbara, California, it is reprinted from an issue of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations (IJCO) that was devoted specifically to the topic of coaching across the generations (“Developmental Perspectives and Organizational Coaching”):

A Developmental Perspective in Coaching

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One Comment

  1. Peer Resources

    November 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Bill: We want to include an abbreviated version of your introduction of the new magazine in our own magazine (The Peer Bulletin) and include a biography of you and William Carrier. We have your bio details, but where can we find a photo/bio of your writing partner?


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